If a private company had the right to legally force you to turn over personal information about yourself and then it sold that information to other companies, any state attorney general would be camped out in front of that company’s door holding a news conference about the legal action he’s taking against the company. But if it’s the state itself doing that, well, it’s OK. The rules are different for Big Brother than they are for us.
In Florida — as in every state — you’re required to hand over various information about yourself if you’d like to drive or own a car (or do just about anything). Now it turns out that the state is selling the information that it forces people to hand over. According to a Miami TV station’s report, the state is selling people’s names, addresses, dates of birth and lists of the vehicles they drive.
The state is selling this information to companies such as Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft, which resell that information to other companies. But the state says it requires those companies to sign documents saying that they won’t harass people. That’s comforting, isn’t it?
The state made $63 million last year selling such information, so it’s not exactly pocket change. The information must be worth quite a bit to the people who are buying it — and they wouldn’t be buying it unless it was going to make money for them, would they?
If people choose to do business with a company that sells information about them, I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s disclosed, because that’s a choice. But when the state requires that you hand over personal information about yourself and then discloses it to pretty much anybody who wants to buy it — even if it’s through a third-party information broker — that’s wrong.
With many of the things the state does, we’re told that it’s to protect us. Licensing drivers and collecting personal information about auto ownership is done is the name of safety and crime prevention. It’s not. It’s about control. The idea that the state system cares about you is a fantasy. Just because it’s what you were told in your middle school civics class doesn’t make it so.